When my kids were babies, I naturally did everything for them. That’s how it goes with infants and toddlers. They can’t do anything for themselves, so Mom and Dad do it. But now my kids are 5 and 9, and I noticed that Mom doing everything had become a habit for my kids rather than a necessity. I see how much they are capable of and how many things I don’t need to do for them. So I started pulling back a bit.
Letting kids gain independence and take more responsibility for themselves doesn’t come as easily as one might think. Kids say, “Let me do it” all the time, right up until that means taking more responsibility for themselves. With independence also comes responsibility, and kids don’t always like that.
So while my kids might think I’m trying to make them unhappy on purpose, I’m not. I’m just trying to ease them into being a bit more in charge of their own selves in hopes they’ll see just how capable they are. Here’s how.
1. I don't come running when they call my name.
I personally can’t stand that my kids think that I’m on call all the time so they scream, “Mooooooommmmm!” from all ends of the house. I used to come running, now I don’t unless it sounds like an emergency. If they want to talk to me, they can come talk to me without shouting at me from the other side of the house.
Even if my kids hate me a little right now for not doing everything for them, they'll thank me later.
2. I stopped making things equal.
I used to feel like if one of my kids got something, I had to get the same thing for the other. Now, I try to make things equal over time but not necessarily every time. My kids learn that it’s OK for someone else to get something and that their turn will come, and I get to not go broke trying to make everyone happy all the time. It’s a win, win!
3. I stopped carrying snacks all the time.
Our moms didn’t carry the pantry in their purse, did they? My kids are 5 and 9. They won’t starve. So I’m doing like my mom did and putting my walled in my purse, not a year’s supply of snacks.
4. I let them entertain themselves sometimes.
Little ones need constant supervision. Big ones, not as much. So if I need to get something done, or if I just need a little quiet time, I let my kids play amongst themselves. Sure there may be a spat or two, but they also have a lot of fun. And that fun doesn’t always need to be created by me.
5. I say things once.
I got tired of repeating myself all the time so I stopped repeating myself all the time. If my kids “forget” to listen to what I’m saying, they may miss something important and face the consequences. But at least I won’t have to say it over and over again and still have no one listen!
6. I’m letting the big one be responsible for his own stuff.
I noticed my 9-year-old had a miraculous memory for things that were important to him, but couldn’t always find his shoes, homework folder or library book. So I let him be responsible for things like remembering to bring his library book to school. I might remind him once, but sometimes I don’t. And sometimes he remembers and sometimes he doesn’t, but the responsibility and consequences are on him.
7. Once I sit down to dinner, I'm not getting up.
We moms joke that we eat standing up because we usually do. After a while, it gets exhausting to always be running around getting things for the kids while everyone else eats. So I stopped. My kids are capable of getting whatever it is they forgot to ask for, or they can wait for my help. But I’m determined to eat a meal in a chair, and I’m doing it!
8. If they can reach it, they can get it.
My kids can reach cups, napkins, silverware and snacks. That means they don’t need my help all the time to get that stuff. Sure that means they have to get up from that comfy spot they found, but they’re fully capable. So I let them.
9. I’m letting the kids hold their own stuff.
I noticed my hands were always full, but my kids were footloose and fancy free. So guess what? I gave them their own backpacks to hold. Suddenly, they didn’t want to put so much stuff in there!
So even if my kids hate me a little right now for not doing everything for them, they'll thank me later. But at the very minimum, they'll stop screaming my name from across the house. I hate that, don't you?